Poetry at Sangam



GUIDE POEM TO MURUGAN – 2 by Kala Krishnan Ramesh

The 4 Ws and 1 H

When you’ve finished – after you’re re-worked, edited and saved, that’s when he’ll strike. His weapons are silent and deadly and in an instant your carefully built poem and everything in it will be gone: rows of streets, townships and citadels, all your ports and libraries – they will be nothing but dust. And you will be standing in a field of waste. That’s when you’ll know you should’ve asked him to lead you through the lines to that last full-stop, marking when you’ve finished.

“What have you finished?” he’ll ask, examining what you did. He’ll smile and walk around the poem you sweated over. He might ask, “What can it do? Will it roll along the riverbank’s uneven? Can it stand in water? Will it run with blowing wind? Can it hold when I charge into battle?” Then he’ll take the front wheel of your metaphor and give it such a shake, the thing will come off in his hands. At this, he will look surprised and ask “What! did you not say you have finished?”

Where you finish, that’s where he’ll want to begin. He’ll position himself at the last and march towards the first. On the way, he might grab the pen you laid down, and run it through your cavalry of words. Or he might encircle and hold them. Or run the pen diagonally across your page, cutting off all negotiation. On a rare day, he might explain where your strategies failed, and show you what to do in order to ensure that nothing can uproot your endings from where you finish.

Why finish at all, you’ll ask yourself. Why not just call it work-in-progress? Why does he decide that you’re done or not? It’s not as if he does anything to help you finish, in fact he does everything to hold you up, asking “Why this? Why that? Why not that other or this other? ”You’ll ask yourself why the answers are so clear when he’s not standing in front of you, but go up in smoke when he leans over and says to you “Why do you feel it’s finished? Why! this is no finish at all.”

Who finishes, only they can read in the great assembly, you know that. But who’s to help you finish? See! Who looks at you, watching slyly, as your head begins to whirl? Who makes your words run off, as if by a spell, whenever he is near? He is the one who holds the rights to the alphabets; it is he who owns the grammars. It is he who will riddle you with his deceptive question: “Who are you? Do I know you?” Remember, the only right retort to this: My Lord, are you He who finishes?

How will you ever finish? How will you plant images in your poem, when he is constantly running amok through the fields? How are you going to build on the metaphors when he routinely shakes them loose? Don’t worry that you will not find answers to these problems and make it to the assembly, for let me tell you, I know He is the Because of every “Why?” the Here of every “Where?” And it is He who becomes the Now to every single “When?” He is always how you will finish.